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  • nancywaldman

Written into a Corner

This happens to me way too often.

I’m speeding along at a rapid, first-draft clip, feeling on top of my writing game, when I find myself rather suddenly up against a wall. Two walls, in fact—my nose pressed up into a corner. I turn around and find the room FULL of words. The way out is on the opposite wall and I’ve just written myself into a corner.

I don’t know where to go with the story and if I did, I can’t get there from here. I’m stuck in the trap of my own plot. I have what seems like too many story elements that weren’t foreseen. By me. I should have planned it all more carefully. I should have outlined in excruciating detail. I should have paced myself. Written a page or two and then thought about it for a while. I should have taken control.

It’s that character’s fault. First, he strolls in with that blasted cockatoo on his shoulder! I don’t even like birds. I never would have thought of that. And he’s so chatty. He gets to talking to the MC and tells her about a hidden Roi-Tan cigar box full of random things. A key. A feather. A charm bracelet. A ticket from a 1987 Mets game? A red herring. Yeah. Great. Now I have to figure out which of the objects is important and which are just, well, red herrings. I have to do that while misleading the reader just enough to make it surprising, but not so much as to piss them off.

But most of all, I do not know how they all link together! Why does the MC treat her sister so well if she’s so brutally mean to her? Does that chatty character know? And if so, why doesn’t he just talk about that? Who left the first edition of The Count of Monte Cristo in the birdcage in the tool shed? And why, oh why, does the minivan keep disappearing?

What would I do, I wonder, if I were actually painted into a corner? It’s not as if there are no options. I’m not truly stuck. I can sit down and nap until the paint dries and then find the way out, AND be rested. Or, I can take my shoes off and walk through the wet paint. Might be fun, my feet will clean up in no time, and the footprints would look cool. Or, I could get on all fours with my shoes on my hands and walk out the door. Then it would look like there were two of me walking around the room, one barefoot and the other in shoes.

Like, what if the cockatoo is really a time traveller? That could work. His feather is in the cigar box, after all. The point is, I’m not trapped in that corner. It’s just time to get creative.

Disclaimer: Characters and plot points in this blog entry are entirely fictitious and bear no resemblance to any actual character, living or dead, or story ideas that I am now or have ever in the past, written. Except for that feather.

And the Roi-Tan box.

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